Climate Change & International Relations Theory

Conference venue: Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP)


Paper presented at the World International Studies Committee Third Global International Studies Conference, 17th – 20th August 2011, University of Porto, Portugal.

This paper paper and presentation explore the broader relationship between climate change and international relations theory.  A general assumption holds that the anarchic international system of competing sovereign states who are unitary, rational actors.  This view, however, disregards the fact that the anarchic system of sovereign states is itself housed within the wider structure of the Earth’s biosphere. How then does international relations theory account for the influence on the international politics biospheric transformation, as is occurring with climate change?

Ben Habib making his presentation at WISC 2011.

Utilising a summary of the climate change hazards likely to impact on Northeast Asia, as identified in the Working Group II contribution to the 2007 International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (Cruz et al 2007), this project examines the Northeast Asian political environment from the perspective of each of the three primary international relations theories—realism, liberalism and constructivism—before providing an ontological critique of each.

It finds that in the absence of an ontological reassessment of international relations as a system of constituent parts, as well as a constituent part in its own right of the larger Earth system, analysts are likely to view Northeast Asia as a progressively more Hobbesian regional system as a result of growing climate-driven scarcity pressures and human insecurity.


Audio: Ben Habib_WISC Presentation Summary_Climate Change and International Relations Theory.mp3

Paper: Ben Habib_WISC2011_Climate Change & IR Theory – Northeast Asia Case Study

About the 2011 WISC Conference

In many societies, ‘crisis’ is associated with instability, threat, change and/or conflict. Crises have consequences and affects the ideas and interests of individuals, groups and states. In the 1990s, the world passed through the crisis produced by the end of the Cold War. In the 2000s, recurring economic and financial crises led to the worsening of crises related to environmental, migration and terrorist problems. Consequences in the international community and world political institutions have been important and apparent, although the outcomes remain unclear today. The theme of the Conference suggests two possible ways out of the crisis and invites debate on the existing expert views and scientific knowledge in order to make clear the nature of the international community in the years to come.

Link to all papers from the 2011 WISC conference.

The city of Porto & the Douro River.

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